In the first season of Killing Eve, there’s a tense and intimate moment where Villanelle holds a knife to Eve’s neck and explains the mechanics of stabbing someone: the slower you go, the more it hurts. It’s a nice bit of foreshadowing for the big climax when Eve plunges a blade into Villanelle’s guts at… well, a medium pace. (With credit to Adam Sandler, and apologies to everyone who understood that reference.) But it also seems like the writers’ room took it to heart when it came to drawing out the inevitable reunion between Eve and Villanelle in season 2 — which is to say, they’re going to make us all suffer a slow, painful death from anticipation.
The season premiere left off with Villanelle on her way to England, and in the first moments of “Nice and Neat,” she arrives — not in London, but Basildon, which probably means something to English people but which this American recapper had to Google for context. (Context: Basildon lies 26 miles east of London, and its most popular attraction is something called “The Imperial Bird of Prey Academy,” which I assume is like your average British boarding school, except for owls.) Villanelle finds the townspeople surprisingly immune to her charms. Maybe it’s the bruises on her face, or maybe they’re cranky because the owls at the owl college shriek all night and won’t let them sleep? Whatever the reason, only one guy — a middle-aged dad type named Julian — agrees to help her. And that’s because something is very, very wrong with him.
We’ll get to that part, but first, let’s check in on Eve. She’s told Niko about Alistair Peele (good!) but not about the deep, weird details of her relationship with Villanelle (not so good! Keeping in mind that if Villanelle makes it to London, there’s a good chance that the very first item on her agenda is to find Eve’s husband and, as the kids say, chop his knob off.) She also meets with her new team at MI6, where Carolyn introduces Eve as an expert on female assassins. Kenny is there, along with two new (to us) spies, Jess and Hugo. (Elena is explained off the show with a line about her having developed a completely uncharacteristic nervousness about the risks of the job, but if Kirby Howell-Baptiste really isn’t coming back, I guess this was the best they could do.) Eve, who’s told no one about what really happened in Paris, decides to confide in Kenny, which is mostly notable for showcasing the continually terrific chemistry between Sandra Oh and Sean Delaney; they’re both great in this moment as two people gripped by the giddy terror of being caught up in a deeply exciting situation that’s almost certainly going to end in disaster.
Meanwhile, Villanelle settles into Julian’s home in Basildon, where every spare surface is occupied by dolls and something keeps going bump upstairs in the night. Villanelle takes much too long to be concerned about any of this; her stab wound is badly infected (probably because she keeps caressing it in a way that is both ill-advised and incredibly masturbatory.) By the time she realizes that she’s a prisoner in the house, along with Julian’s elderly dementia-afflicted mother, her only option is to do something desperate. First, she calls a number and delivers a coded (and very mid-1990s message): “It’s Cher Horowitz. I failed my driving test.”
Then, she calls MI6 and fights (unsuccessfully) with the robot operator to be connected to Eve Polastri.
Unfortunately, Eve isn’t in the MI6 phone database — or in the office, as she’s trying to unravel the mystery of Alistair Peele. The man was murdered, for sure — injected with air underneath his toenail, creating the appearance of a heart attack — but there’s something off about this homicide. It’s subtle. It’s non-attention-grabbing. It could easily be mistaken for a natural death.
Ohmigod, you guys. Villanelle would never.
“I knew it! A new girl!” Eve crows. And in a flash, we see the female assassin who Eve christens “the Ghost”: the anti-Villanelle, someone who can blend so easily into the background that people look at her without seeing her. In this scene, she’s playing an office maid. We don’t see her face, but we do see her poison a guy. Indeed, it’s quite subtle.
“Villanelle will be furious,” Eve says.
But Villanelle has bigger problems. Weak and feverish, she can barely manage to best the middle-aged Julian in a ridiculous slapstick fight before killing him with a knitting needle to the carotid. And her escape from his house is the proverbial frying-pan-to-fire moment: she’s swiftly captured by her new handler, a cheerful buck-toothed sadist who informs her that she’s in big trouble and on a short leash. And when Carolyn and Eve arrive in Basildon (having traced Villanelle’s call), all Villanelle can do is gaze longingly out the window at Eve as they drive away.
She left her a present, though: Julian, dead, with a toilet brush stuffed in his mouth.
And having just missed her prey, Eve returns to London, where she (and we) get another surprise — this one an unexpected guest. Sitting in Carolyn’s living room, very much alive, is Konstantin. Why? How?! Here’s hoping answers come next week; it hurts so much worse when they do this slowly.